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Overstreet

Noah (2014)

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For what it's worth, here's a link to my conversation with Aronofsky from 2006 (during his press tour for The Fountain). Here's a clip that seems relevant to this thread:

There seems to be a theme in many films right now, from Code Unknown to Crash to Babel—an increasing focus on the idea that some kind of fundamental connection has been broken.

Aronofsky: I buy it. I think we live in a very critical time. Every plastic bottle of drinking water that we've produced is going to be around for 10,000 years, at the minimum. We've basically poisoned our oceans and ripped down our forests. We've taken a huge chunk out of the planet. And we're still playing the same old game of killing each other, and being the only species on the planet that just basically wipes each other out off the planet.

We know that there's 16,000 different species that are on the endangered list, and that's all because of human pressure. We're basically destroying our Creator's, uh, Eden. All of us believe that there's something amazing and something beautiful about this creation, yet here we are just totally shredding it and destroying it. It's really, really mixed up and messed up. We've really lost our way.

As far as I can see, we're just continuing down this path. And now, as a new father, I look at my son and I think about my grandchildren, and I know they're gonna look back on my generation and say, "What were you people thinking?" They'll just have incredible disdain for what we did in the twentieth century to the planet and to each other.

So, as a filmmaker and a storyteller, I've got to try and tell stories that reconnect us to each other and to the planet.

So, in view of that human tendency to destroy, what is The Fountain showing us?

Aronofsky: The big message of The Fountain is a message of recycling.

It's called The Fountain because a fountain basically sucks out from below, shoots it up on the air, it goes back into the earth, and goes around in a cycle. Even a tree is very much a fountain that moves extremely slowly: It grows up and up out of the earth, the leaves come out, the leaves die and fall down, they go back into the soil, and the tree comes back alive again.

And, for me, that circle, that rotating circle of energy and matter, is endless. It stretches all the way back to the beginning of time.

The whole "Big Bang," the scientific theory of how we've evolved, and the question of whether or not there is a Creator—it doesn't matter to me. I think The Fountain is open to all of that. All of our energy and all of our matter comes from something before us. It's the old "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," idea that we go back to the earth and then something else comes out of it. I don't think it affects how you look at Heaven or Hell, or reincarnation, or whichever religious belief you come from. I worked really hard in The Fountain not to get in the way of that. I just wanted people to see that we're part of this long, lasting cycle stretching back all the way to the Big Bang.

Edited by Overstreet

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Josie wrote:

: Could you possibly link your interview? I would really like to read it.

My interview has never been online; I did it for a local (and short-lived) magazine. If I can find it, I'll post it, though...

: I know your opinion is tentatively, conditionally put, but I wonder what 'Noah' controversy would look like.

Well, any film that put Noah *in opposition to* God, and then basically suggested that Noah was in the right and God was not, would be problematic for people. But I honestly don't know how "controversial" that would be; I think anyone who found that premise offensive would simply ignore the film. There's a lot less at stake in the Noah story than there is in the twin natures of Jesus Christ.

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For what it's worth, here's a link to my conversation with Aronofsky from 2006 (during his press tour for The Fountain). Here's a clip that seems relevant to this thread

I kind of wish I'd read the interview, especially the 1st response in the clip, before reading Godawa's review and commenting here. I see he links environmental damage to war, laments what we do to the planet *and* to each other. I liked a reply that's not excerpted, about our failure to see death as a spiritual act and a movement towards grace isolating the dying. What he calls the tragedy and 'the core emotional story' of The Fountain.

I would still contend that period pieces are always about contemporary problems, and grant the same license to Bible-based film (in fairness, so does Godawa).

We're at a point in history where the fragility and resilience of our natural world are debated as never before and where we're struggling, scientifically and morally, to understand its mysteries and our own role. (And I think pretty much everyone cares.) If that awareness enters Noah in at all the same way the concept of 'recycling' apparently entered The Fountain, I think the new film could be 'pro-faith'. Whatever The Fountain's flaws, it had a very strong Judeo-Christian strain and didn't strike viewers as propaganda. (At least, I don't think so?)

Well, any film that put Noah *in opposition to* God, and then basically suggested that Noah was in the right and God was not, would be problematic for people.

For me too, if Noah's moral 'rightness' is upheld by the narrative itself. But I couldn't tell, as that's such a weak place in Godawa's logic. He moves directly from channeling Noah's thoughts: 'Noah deduces that God's only reason for his family on the boat is to shepherd the animals to safety. The world would be better off without humans, he concludes. He decides there will be no more births in this family . . . .'

to this: 'He is just too compassionate to carry out God's cruel plan. Noah is more loving than God.'

But as Noah deduced, concluded and decided the cruel plan, the final verdict of a more loving Noah doesn't seem to be the film's or the script's or Noah's (who, according to Godawa, is psychotic and believes the truly loving act is to save the world from humankind). It seems to be Godawa's sarcasm speaking.

But I honestly don't know how "controversial" that would be; I think anyone who found that premise offensive would simply ignore the film. There's a lot less at stake in the Noah story than there is in the twin natures of Jesus Christ.

From the figures you gave before, maybe Noah can't afford to be ignored by *too* many people. I understand better about framing a conversation now.

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Josie said:

:We're at a point in history where the fragility and resilience of our natural world are debated as never before and where we're struggling, scientifically and morally, to understand its mysteries and our own role.

That's a good comment. I think your right. We're also realizing, especially since we've developed the nuclear bomb, that we now have potential to screw things up as never before. But when one looks to many ancient cultures they did have an understanding of their role in the natural world. There has been some wisdom that has been lost for various reasons. Some people are also becoming attracted to regaining this. Depending on what books one read, or who one talks to, some people think that this is crucial.

Even if it isn't necessarily crucial for the planet (I'm not arguing it isn't) it very well could be crucial for US. For our emotional, spiritual and physical well being. We're a bunch of apathetic grumpypants. ;)

:Whatever The Fountain's flaws, it had a very strong Judeo-Christian strain and didn't strike viewers as propaganda. (At least, I don't think so?)

The Fountain was indeed flawed. But it was also ambitious. I didn't read it as having a strong Judeo-Christian strain, although there were certainly elements there. But if memory serves, there were also some elements that would be problematic to a Christian world view. For me it was a beautiful film. But also a little perplexing.

:For me too, if Noah's moral 'rightness' is upheld by the narrative itself.

The narrative certainly indicates that Noah was the only person to have a true good heart for God, but it also indicates that he wasn't perfect. After all, after the flood he did get drunk and pass out in his tent. I would think that this leaves wiggle room for the film to portray him as an imperfect person, to a certain degree.

Edited by Attica

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Attica wrote:

: But when one looks to many ancient cultures they did have an understanding of their role in the natural world.

Possibly. But this has often been overstated. Here in North America, for example, you often hear people talk about how Native Americans were in tune with nature or some such thing, but the fact is, they had their environmental problems too; they were limited in what they could do because their technology was limited, yes, but they were still capable of hunting species to extinction etc.

Which I guess is just my way of saying that I don't find Aronofsky's reported scenario -- that the antediluvian humans had wreaked much environmental devastation -- all that implausible. smile.png

: The narrative certainly indicates that Noah was the only person to have a true good heart for God, but it also indicates that he wasn't perfect. After all, after the flood he did get drunk and pass out in his tent. I would think that this leaves wiggle room for the film to portray him as an imperfect person, to a certain degree.

Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Aronofsky has talked about Noah's "survivor's guilt", and I think it's at least possible that any anti-human activity on Noah's part might just be the guilt talking, so to speak. Like, if Noah *did* get instructions from God to build an Ark, then presumably God wanted *some* humans to survive... but someone like Noah could very easily have wondered why there should have been any exceptions for him and his family, and he could very easily have concluded that the Flood's work wouldn't be finished until even the Ark's human inhabitants were killed.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Peter T Chattaway wrote:

:Possibly. But this has often been overstated. Here in North America, for example, you often hear people talk about how Native Americans were in tune with nature or some such thing, but the fact is, they had their environmental problems too; they were limited in what they could do because their technology was limited, yes, but they were still capable of hunting species to extinction etc.

Yeah. I hear what your saying, and your right. They also enslaved each other, ect. ect. We sometimes make out these cultures to be sort of a golden age that they were not.

And yet, when I talk with Canadian First Nations people that I know, they inevitably have a different take on some of these things that is connected to their old ways and often expresses concern for the "tribes of creatures" or what not. For instance I've heard concern that my city is expanding and robbing the nearby animals of their feeding grounds and migration routes. It's a different way of understanding the world than I'm used to hearing, and I'm not altogether sure that it isn't right. Of course there is also a balance to be found that's do-able and reasonable. That's probably the real trick with all of the environmental stuff, finding the balance.

:Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Aronofsky has talked about Noah's "survivor's guilt", and I think it's at least possible that any anti-human activity on Noah's part might just be the guilt talking, so to speak. Like, if Noah *did* get instructions from God to build an Ark, then presumably God wanted *some* humans to survive... but someone like Noah could very easily have wondered why there should have been any exceptions for him and his family, and he could very easily have concluded that the Flood's work wouldn't be finished until even the Ark's human inhabitants were killed.

That's interesting. I've never thought of it that way. I HAVE thought that he might have had doubts as to what the hell he was doing building a boat in what was likely a desert. I mean does real faith not include having second thoughts and doubts? Or is real faith having these doubts and questions and walking ahead in faith anyways?

It's also would fit into a story to have the drunkiness as part of any "survivors guilt". I had never thought of that part of the story in this light. But it actually does kind of make sense.

Edited by Attica

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But when one looks to many ancient cultures they did have an understanding of their role in the natural world. There has been some wisdom that has been lost for various reasons. Some people are also becoming attracted to regaining this.

Possibly. But this has often been overstated. Here in North America, for example, you often hear people talk about how Native Americans were in tune with nature or some such thing, but the fact is, they had their environmental problems too; they were limited in what they could do because their technology was limited, yes, but they were still capable of hunting species to extinction etc.

I don't want to disparage that understanding any more than I want to romanticize it. . Earlier cultures could only have been aware that resources were finite - they suffered famine and drought, saw species dwindle and vanish. But the technology that limited how much they could 'hurt' their world must also have limited how much they could intervene and interpret change . Maybe their sense of nature's fragility ran deep but narrow - more intimate and more local than our own? (A scant 2 centuries ago, I'm pretty sure Europeans thought birds hibernated beneath the ice of ponds. Seasonal migration was outside the sphere of what they could observe or imagine.) Anyway, the idea of an endangered world whose beauty and resources we protect seems relatively new - unless it's also very old, invoked in Genesis . . . .

We're also realizing, especially since we've developed the nuclear bomb, that we now have potential to screw things up as never before.

We've lost so many frontiers: explored the oceans, settled the American West, landed on the moon. But in a way, the more we find out about our ecoshphere the less secure we are in our dominion. And yes, from splitting the atom to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Once we devised technology to wipe life off the face of the earth and we're born into a world with that reality - we've domesticated the apocalypse.

(The last few posts - and especially Aronofsky's quoted comments - keep reminding me of a book called Hiroshima, in which John Hersey recounts the stories of a few survivors of the atomic bomb. Distinguished by simplicity and 'ordinariness', it has an aura of innocence but is also brimming with survivor's guilt. Compassion is blended with shame, for being unhurt. One man, a clergyman, traverses a city populated by the dead and dying. Among those he tries to help, soldiers who were facing the blast, eyes melted, a woman whose skin comes off in his hands when he lifts her above rising water. The water he gives to people perishing of radiation and thirst makes them retch and vomit. As with the Holocaust, reality is more horrific - and unimaginable - than fiction. And in these accounts and the history they describe, our joint capacity to hurt the world and each other and to save the world and eachother rises to unfathomable heights. I think those on the front have always experienced that fusion. Long before disdain like Godawa's, for the soldiers and civilians who experience war firsthand the deformed and razed earth hasn't been given primacy over the human tragedy, it's been part of it - expressive of pain and trauma. Like those Biblical metaphors you cited of a sentient earth.)

Aronofsky has talked about Noah's "survivor's guilt", and I think it's at least possible that any anti-human activity on Noah's part might just be the guilt talking, so to speak . . . . Noah could very easily have wondered why there should have been any exceptions for him and his family, and he could very easily have concluded that the Flood's work wouldn't be finished until even the Ark's human inhabitants were killed.

There's both the enormity of loss and the enormity of the original transgression. The thought 'why should i be here when others aren't' would have dual impact.

I HAVE thought that he might have had doubts as to what the hell he was doing building a boat in what was likely a desert. I mean does real faith not include having second thoughts and doubts?

Yes, in the desert culture of Genesis, simply building a boat was an act of insanity. And unless doubt is hovering somewhere in the wings, I think it can be hard to tell faith apart from complacency.

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*Finally*! Six new pictures of Noah, Naamah, Ham, Ila, Methuselah and Tubal-Cain -- actual studio-released character shots and not just paparazzi and/or behind-the-scenes shots.

(Has it really been over ten months since that one picture of Russell Crowe as Noah was released to USA Today? I don't think there have been *any* other officially-released images, until now. And no, I'm not counting the pictures Aronofsky has tweeted of the sets and of extras in costume, etc.)

Some footage was apparently shown at a convention in Barcelona yesterday, but I have not yet found any indication as to what was actually *in* the footage.

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*Finally*! Six new pictures of Noah, Naamah, Ham, Ila, Methuselah and Tubal-Cain -- actual studio-released character shots and not just paparazzi and/or behind-the-scenes shots.

Every one of those pictures (except maybe Logan Lerman) appears to be in either Middle-Earth or Westeros.

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Finally got around to reading the screenplay today, or some version of it, anyway.

Most surprising to me was that the script I read made no mention of Tubal-Cain, the Ray Winstone character. But Noah definitely has a "nemesis" in this script, named Akkad -- and I suppose it's possible that Aronofsky just changed the name from one to the other.

If so, that's disappointing, to me, as I had hoped that the film might get into the family dynamics between Tubal-Cain and Noah's wife Naamah, who is identical to Tubal-Cain's sister Naamah in at least *some* Jewish traditions.

Anyway, re: some of Godawa's arguments:

 

The notion of human evil is more of an afterthought or symptom of the bigger environmental concern of the great tree hugger in the sky.

I wouldn't say human evil is an *afterthought*. The film will apparently begin the same way the graphic novel begins, with Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit leading directly to the murder of Abel by Cain and, then, to a cacophany of screams indicating violence of one sort or another. The ruined environment -- which is, admittedly, a predominant concern of the film -- comes *after* all those images and sounds of violence.

What's more, the Fall and the allusion to Cain and Abel is repeated later on, when Noah tells the Creation story to his family aboard the Ark (a framing device that has already been used in such productions as Testament: The Bible in Animation and this year's miniseries The Bible).

And, beyond even that, Noah's decision to let humanity die out is motivated by an incident in which he slaps one of his sons (out of anger, because the son in question accidentally killed one of the animals they were going to save) and then has the following exchange with his wife:

 

NAAMEH: We can't find him. What happened between you?

NOAH: I'm not sure. I saw the dead creature. The Creator's creature, gone forever now. I was furious, I...

NAAMEH: They are just boys.

NOAH: I know. Just boys. And I struck out. I hurt my son.

Noah's voice cracks.

NAAMEH: They will forgive you.

NOAH: Should they? (swallows) I thought somehow we were different. I look out at all those lost souls and I sympathize with them. They are no different than us. We are no different than them. The same wickedness in all of us.

Later:

 

NOAH: There will be no wives.

NAAMEH: It was a mistake. An accident. You can't blame them for that.

NOAH: I do not blame them, I blame myself. It is not what they did. It was my response. My anger! (nods to himself) Ham and Japheth will survive the deluge, but they will survive alone.

Ham catches every word.

NAAMEH: They are innocent boys! Children.

NOAH: And they will be the last. They must be. We have undone Creation. And we would do it again. If not our children, then our children's children.

NAAMEH: Your grandchildren!

NOAH: Yes. Or great-grandchildren. We are men, like all the others, just as wicked as the rest. And as long as there are men creation will not be safe.

So, you certainly still see the concern for the environment there, but the core motivation seems to be Noah's awareness of his own anger, his own propensity for violence, and his awareness of the fact that he (and therefore his family) share in the fallenness of the humans who will perish in the flood.

Also, re: this bit from Godawa's essay:

 

The primary sin of the script Noah is man’s violence against the environment. Which is kind of contradictory, don’t you think? Claiming that God destroys the entire environment because man was — well, destroying the environment?

It seems pretty clear to me, on reading the script, that there isn't much environment left for God to destroy. Indeed, as Godawa himself notes, the only reason movie-Noah has enough wood to build his Ark is because of a magical sort of forest that sprouts up with the help of... Methuselah, I think. (Although that, itself, raises other questions, like why Methuselah doesn't help even *more* plants to grow, magically or otherwise.)

Also, re: this bit from Godawa's essay:

 

The problem is that Noah is depicted as attempting to follow God’s will in the script, a will that includes the complete annihilation of the human race, as opposed to the Genesis depiction of starting over with eight humans to repopulate and ultimately provide a Messiah.

It seems to me that Godawa misses one of the most crucial scenes in the entire script, when Naameh visits Methuselah to discuss Noah's plan to let humanity die out:

 

NAAMEH: There is no moving him! He has come to believe the death of man is just.

METHUSELAH: But it *is* just.

NAAMEH: It is?

METHUSELAH: We have destroyed this world. So we ourselves will be destroyed. Justice.

NAAMEH: And there is no escaping it?

METHUSELAH: The Creator reaches down to us with two hands. In his left -- a sword that shears away wickedness. That is justice. But in his right -- a canopy. It shelters us from judgement and creates a space for grace. That is mercy. Which the Creator intends for us now -- that is a mystery.

NAAMEH: So why won't Noah strive for mercy?

METHUSELAH: The visions came to Noah. The choice is his.

NAAMEH: Can you do nothing?

Methuselah thinks. A pause.

METHUSELAH: I could try. But it would cause pain. Possibly tragedy. Do you wish to take that chance?

And I won't say what Methuselah *does*, exactly, but suffice it to say there's a sort of indirect intervention that follows, which makes the climax of the film (in which Noah realizes he can't kill his own grandchildren after all) possible in the first place.

So to evaluate this film's portrayal of God and those who profess to understand his will *without* even *acknowledging* the existence of this scene, or the pivotal part it plays in the entire story, seems like a major interpretive flaw, to me.

Also, re: this bit from Godawa's essay:

 

Add to this, the fact that the animals aboard the ark help Noah to pin down his family so he can kill the infant girls. That clearly supports the notion of God being behind it all.

It might, it might. Though it's frankly not clear how much of that is supposed to be attributable to God and how much of that is attributable to Noah's own personal charismatic influence on the animals. And then there is the role that the rainbow plays in prompting Noah to give up his murderous intentions. I think the film is too ambiguous, taken as a whole, to say that elements like this "clearly" tilt the film as a whole in one direction.

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Footage was shown at the Echo Conference in Dallas last night. Now, when is the *general public* going to get to see a trailer!? (I mean, the film comes out in March 2014, just a few weeks after another ancient-epic-based-on-a-graphic-novel, i.e. 300: Rise of an Empire, and we've already seen at least two trailers for *that*.)

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A new set of hi-res images from the film has been released, mostly shots of the Icelandic landscape and a few portraits of characters (Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, and Jennifer Connelly). I believe the Hopkins and Connelly pics aren't really new, but the scenery is pretty to look at.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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"Update: Photos removed at the request of Paramount, but one can try their luck on Twitter or Tumblr."

Ah, now I feel better about not re-posting the photos on my own blog (though I did download them, so I've got 'em if I ever need to look at 'em). I remember how Paramount kept telling blogs like mine to yank stuff during the run-up to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and on one occasion they even got Google to do their dirty work for them (deleting one of my blog posts after I had already complied with their request to remove the embed code for a video that didn't exist on YouTube any more anyway, or something like that).

Oh, and: "One" can try "their" luck? Shouldn't that be "your luck" or "one's luck"?

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What timing. No sooner do I (finally!) post that item about the test screening in August, than The Hollywood Reporter comes along and reports that Aronofsky and the studio are "sparring" over how to cut the film following various test screenings (for Jewish, Christian and general audiences) that apparently didn't go as well as they'd hoped. Details here.

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What timing. No sooner do I (finally!) post that item about the test screening in August, than The Hollywood Reporter comes along and reports that Aronofsky and the studio are "sparring" over how to cut the film following various test screenings (for Jewish, Christian and general audiences) that apparently didn't go as well as they'd hoped. Details here.

That's the difficulty you will always get with any Biblical film. And I agree with your blog comments:

 

 

 

For me, though, I hope that we’ll get to see the film the way Aronofsky intended. The last thing I’d want to see is a film that has been neutered to satisfy certain religious communities (or, indeed, a film that has been neutered to satisfy the general public). I want Aronofsky to engage with the Noah story and show us what it means to him; the last thing I want is for Aronofsky to rein himself in, water things down and give us the Noah story that marketing consultants say the faceless masses want.

It will be interesting to see which side gives. Also worth considering that nowadays a LOT of box-office for VFX blockbusters can be garnered in Asia, where these questions of 'Biblical accuracy' would have far less impact. 

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The movie comes out in five months but the studio still hasn't released any trailers. It has, however, shown a trailer privately to Christian audiences at several events over the past few months -- and a copy of it captured on someone's cell phone leaked online yesterday. It was quickly yanked from the original site, but now it's up again, at Gawker.

This, apparently, is the CCM tune (though not necessarily the exact same recording) that plays over the second half of the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv8kecxwV_w

I have no idea if this particular trailer will ever be released to the public (online or in theatres); the CCM and whatnot leads me to think that this was targeting a very specific demographic, and that the studio might prefer to go a different route when promoting the film to the general public.

But they'd better figure out how they're promoting it *soon*, because, like I say, the movie comes out in only five months!

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morgan1098 wrote:

: I just watched the trailer at Gawker, and found it a bit unsettling when the audience erupts in cheers when a character says, "He's going to destroy the world." Yikes.

Heh. Yeah. And also when Noah says "I'm not alone." (Though there's a long enough pause between the statement and the cheers that it's possible they're cheering the Darren Aronofsky title card that follows, I guess.) There's a triumphalist aspect to the Christian-audiences-only trailer that is not exactly reflective of the screenplay that's been making the rounds.

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